|Union||New Zealand Rugby Union|
|Most caps||Anna Richards|
| New Zealand 56 - 0 Netherlands |
(Christchurch, New Zealand; August 26, 1990)
| New Zealand 134 - 6 Germany |
(Amsterdam, Netherlands; May 2, 1998)
| England 21 - 7 New Zealand |
(Esher, England; November 29, 2011)
|Appearances||7 (First in 1991)|
|Best result||Champions 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2017|
The New Zealand national women's rugby union team, called the Black Ferns, represents New Zealand in women's rugby union, which is regarded as the country's national sport. The team has won five of the past six Women's Rugby World Cups.
They have an 88% winning record in test match rugby, and are the only international side with a winning record against every opponent. Since their international debut in 1991, the Black Ferns have lost to only four of the 16 nations they have played in test matches.[a]
The team's nickname combines the colour black and the silver fern, which are iconic New Zealand sporting symbols. For example, the All Blacks is New Zealand's famous men's rugby team, the Black Caps is the men's cricket team, the White Ferns is the women's cricket team, while the Silver Ferns is the national women's netball team.
Starting with the inaugural International Rugby Board (IRB)-sponsored Cup in 1998, the Black Ferns won four consecutive World Cups, including the 2002 World Cup in Barcelona, the 2006 World Cup in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the 2010 World Cup in London, England. Most recently, the Black Ferns have won their 5th World Cup, beating the English team in Belfast on the 27th of August, 2017.
The Black Ferns have participated in most WRWC events since its inauguration in 1991, only missing the 1994 championship in Scotland. They also won the Canada Cup in 1996, 2000, and 2005, and the Churchill Cup in 2004.
Farah Palmer was captain of the Ferns from 1997 to 2005, when she lost her captaincy due to a shoulder injury. That year, she was honoured as International Women's (Rugby) Personality of the Year at the IRB Awards. For the 5th Women's Rugby World Cup in Canada, Palmer fought her way back into the team and again led the it to World Cup victory. After the win, Palmer announced her retirement from the Black Ferns in September 2006.
While rugby is the most popular spectator game in New Zealand, the Black Ferns have suffered in the past from similar problems to any women's sport: under-funding, lack of support and lack of publicity. The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) and IRB have been criticised for not doing more to promote women's rugby, although support is beginning to improve in those organisations, in large part due to the Ferns' successes. The NZRU started funding the Black Ferns in 1995, thus giving a great boost to their game. Accordingly, the Black Ferns have benefitted from being included in NZRU High Performance initiatives. Along with professional coaches the team has had access to professional development resources such as analysis. In more recent times, the team's profile has risen greatly at a grassroots level, due in great part to their string of successes, and it is increasingly seen to be a national team on the same basis as any other.
In January 2010, the Women's Provincial Championship (WPC) came under severe threat after the NZRU announced that the championship series would have to go due to budget cuts. As the championship was a prime builder of training, skill and competition for New Zealand women's rugby, the decision was a shock for players and supporters, including former captain Farah Palmer (especially since it was a World Cup year). NZRU said women's domestic rugby was one of many victims of the tight financial times. They faced a barrage of criticism for their decision, and eventually reinstated the WPC after the Black Ferns won the 2010 World Cup.
The WPC was renamed the Farah Palmer Cup in 2016, in honour of the influential former captain.
In 2018, after the success of New Zealand women's national rugby sevens team, all Sevens and Black Ferns players have been offered semi-professional contracts. They also played the first Test series against Australian Walleroos, which was played on the same night as the Men's Bledisloe Cup Tests.
The 2018 season finished with a 1-1 drawn series against France, with France becoming only the fourth team in the world to beat the Black Ferns. The Black Ferns' loss in the final game of the year ended a 17-month long winning streak and was also the final game for captain Fa’amausili, who retired from international rugby.
New Zealand will host the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup after beating out neighbour Australia for the rights. New Zealand automatically qualified for the 2021 event as host.
Squad for the 2017 Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland
Note: Due to the lighter schedule for women's rugby, caps include provincial and international fixtures